Dear Mentor:

Should I change from accounting to software?

I am appearing for the C.A. final exams in Nov 2000, but I have started feeling that in today's IT world, there is no scope for a person like me. Therefore, I am planning to either shift my stream from finance to software or do some computer course which can supplement me in the field of finance. Please advice what should I do and which course should I take up?

To IT or Not IT, India

Dear To IT or Not IT:

Interestingly, we answered a similar question in an earlier Dear Mentor: column (Should I study computers or business?) from someone at a very different stage in life from yours. The message contained therein is just as applicable to your situation, so you may wish to visit that answer.

Given the brief question from you, we are not fully aware of your background, your interests, and your goals. All we know about you is that you have an accounting background and you are taking an exam to become a Chartered Accountant (C.A.). We also know that you want to do something with computers, which you feel would ensure your success.

One must realize that, at any point in time, some area of the economy may to be particularly popular. That does not mean that one has to be in that area to be successful. The idea is to strike the right balance, the right balance for you, between your interests, background and goals. Just as one does not need to be a car mechanic -- that is, learn the inside of a car -- to drive a car successfully or put it to good use, one does not need to be a computer expert to thrive in the technology-driven economy. Yes, computers will be a part of that economy, but they are a means to an end and not necessarily the end in themselves.

We do not believe that doing some courses in the computers area is the answer. After all today, even in the traditional "old economy" companies, successful executives exist who make a rather lucrative living - all without any expertise in computers. You should either continue to excel in what you are doing or pursue a full-degree program.

If you have a particular interest in computers, then you should pursue a computer science degree. Given your background in accounting, a very attractive and viable option is to get an MBA. With the general management knowledge, you can become a manager in the hi-tech industry, without the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of computers. Incidentally, many successful senior executives even in the hi-tech industry do not have in-depth knowledge of the guts of computers. To be successful, you do not necessarily need that knowledge either.

From your question, we feel that you would consider your choices carefully and make the right decision for yourself. Our best wishes are with you.

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